Second Sunday of Lent “A”
March 3, 2017 by
David Jackson in
Reflections on Sunday Gospels
Introduction: The Image of a journey for our life is often times used.
In today’s first reading, Abraham is called to go on a journey. His
attentiveness to the call of God is also followed by a number of
promises. In the Gospel we hear of a stopping off place on the journey
of Jesus, the Mountain of Transfiguration.
For Catholics throughout the world we are on the Lenten Journey.
Last Sunday we paused with Jesus on the Mt. of Temptation. Today we
pause at the mountain of Transfiguration. On the following Sundays of
Lent this year we will pause with Jesus at the Well of the Samaritan
woman, will pause with the man born blind, will pause at the tomb of
Lazarus, will pause to listen again to the Passion story.
The sermon today will have three points: l) consider the story of
the transfiguration as told by Matthew; 2) look at the life of Jesus
according to Matthew in view of the five different mountains that are
mentioned; 3) try to apply the meaning of the Transfiguration to our
l) We have the story of the transfiguration in three Gospels, Mark,
Luke and Matthew. The sequence these three Gospel writers follow is
similar. Jesus exercises his ministry in Galilee, he makes his first passion
prediction, (In Matthew and Mark, Peter objects) and then we have the
story of the transfiguration.
But the story is slightly different in these three Gospels. Let us
look carefully at the differences in Matthew’s account. First of all
Matthew is the only one of the three to describe this experience
with the word, “vision.” When Matthew describes what happened to Jesus
he says, “His face became as dazzling as the sun.” This specific
description of what happened to Jesus is only in Matthew. We recall
Exodus 34:29 “As Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets
of the commandments in his hands, he did not know that the skin of his
face had become radiant while he conversed with the Lord. 33 “he put a
veil over his face.” And in the vision of Daniel (10:6) the heavenly
person is described, “his face shone like lightning.”
In Matthew’s account when Peter speaks after the appearance of
Moses and Elijah he refers to Jesus as Lord. In Mark Peter refers
to Jesus as Rabbi, In Luke as Master. Peter also portrays a
submissive attitude before God for
Matthew says, “with your permission…” After the voice speaks from the
cloud Matthew tell us, “When they heard this the disciples fell forward
on the ground, overcome with fear.” NABR “they fell prostrate and were
very much afraid.” These emphases of Matthew turn the picture of Jesus
to accent his divine majesty. When we pray for mercy at the beginning
of Mass we address Jesus as Lord have mercy, we do not pray teacher
or rabbi have mercy.
But the other addition of Matthew gives another particular emphasis
to the Transfiguration scene as Matthew paints the picture. Only
Matthew informs us, “Jesus came toward them and laying his hand on them,
said ‘Get up! Do not be afraid.” NABR “But Jesus came and touched them
saying, ‘Rise and do not be afraid.'” Matthew is careful to portray
this Jesus in his majesty but also in his tender compassion.
2) Our second point is to look at the story of Jesus in Matthew’s
Gospel with reference to the different mountains he considers.
(1) As we heard last Sunday the first mountain is the mountain of
temptation. Jesus is alone with Satan. He must make a decision.
Satan tempts him to be the Messiah of popular expectations.
Jesus rejects this temptation and quotes the book of Deuteronomy. It is
a turning point in Jesus’ life. When he comes down from this mountain
he moves from the south, Judea, to the North, Galilee the region
near the lake of Galilee and the city of Caparnaum. He begins his
ministry of teaching, proclaiming, and healing.
(2) The second Mountain is the Mountain on which Jesus gives the
Sermon on the Mount. In chapters five to seven we have heard the
important teachings of Jesus. When he comes down from this
mountain he also does a number of miracles. He is either accepted
by people or rejected. He finally predicts that he must go up to
Jerusalem to suffer and die and rise from the dead. This is
not the type of Messiah the disciples desire.
( 3) This leads to the third mountain, the mountain of
Transfiguration. Though Peter would like to stay on this mountain Jesus
goes down from the mountain with the disciples. Following this
experience the miracles of Jesus decrease. Jesus tries mightily to
convince his disciples of the kind of Messiah he must be, to give his
life for others.
(4) This leads to the fourth mountain (the mount of Olives followed
by) Mount Calvary. Here Jesus dies for us. What he taught in words in
the sermon on the Mount he now teaches in deed. But the journey does
not end, this time his body is taken down and laid in a tomb. But death
does not triumph over Jesus. On the third day he rises from the dead.
He appears to the apostles.
(5) This leads to the fifth mountain, the mountain of commissioning.
The apostles gather and Jesus commissions them to continue his mission
of teaching to the ends of the earth. They are to baptize and he
promises to be with them till the end of time.
3) Lessons or applications for us from this Sunday. The first lesson is
that for the Christian ashes, the human condition, sin and death are a part of our
life and experience. But for us the promise of transfiguration,
grace and glory are also to be part of our experience. What happened
to Jesus can also happen to us. Transfiguration of Jesus also assures
us that within each of us there are extraordinary possibilities,
potentials for good. God can also shine through us.
A psychologist, Abraham Maslow, said that part of the experience of a
well adjusted person is what he called, “peak experiences.” These
experiences frequently involve wonder, awe, feeling of oneness with the
universe, and a loss of self. As we look at the mountain experiences of
Jesus we can see that, though different, each one was special. This
Sunday we are called perhaps to reflect on the mountain or peak
experiences in our lives. Jesus had to come down from the mountain each
time, except for the last time. Our life too alternates between highs
and lows. Many times we return to a valley of tears. But the promise
of Transfiguration is also ours. This is the reason we have the
penitential season of Lent to be open to the call from God to ever
greater conversion, to a more open heart.
The Transfiguration experience as described by Matthew reminds us
that in Jesus we have a person of divine majesty. He has the power and
ability to change us and situations in our life. But we also have a
Jesus of tender compassion. He wishes to touch each of us and tell us
not to be afraid._
There is nothing magic about Lent or Ashes. If we do nothing during
Lent we will come to the end of Lent and will experience nothing. Lent
is a time to deepen our understanding of the teachings of Jesus, perhaps
to read each day from the Gospel of Matthew. We cannot call ourselves
Christians if we do not know what are the teachings of Jesus. If we
undertake Lenten practices, the promise is we will experience
transformation and transfiguration in us too.